A. INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF GENESIS
Genesis means “Beginning” or “Origin” and the revelation contained in the book of Genesis is the foundation supporting the revelations contained in all the other books of the Bible. It tells of the beginning of all the visible and invisible things. Visible things include the universe, (the cosmos) with its stars and planets and especially the earth and all that is on it of which mankind is the most important; therefor it describes man’s sin and redemption. Invisible things and beings include God, heaven and its created beings and the devil. The Bible reveals our God as the Creator and Maintainer of everything.
Except for the story of creation and of man’s falling into sin, it also relates the stories of Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph; so it teaches us much about God’s interaction (dealings) with mankind and his intimate dealings with some people, those that belonged to him, giving us insight into how He sees and does things. Once we understand Genesis thoroughly, the other books of the Bible open up to us.
B. THE BEGINNING OF ALL THINGS (Please read Gen 1:1,2)
In these very first verses, the Bible tells us how everything was created:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth then, was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.” (WEB)
What a lot of information do we have in these two short verses. Firstly, we are told that it was God Who created the universe; the heavens and the earth. That means that He existed before anything else came into being. He always existed, there never was a time that He did not exist. We say this with reverence: He was not created by something or someone else. He is the only Being Who existed from all eternity.
Secondly it means that God created everything from nothing. Everything, both seen and unseen, flowed forth from God. He is the all sufficient One. He needs no-one’s assistance or supplies to enable Him to do what He determines to do. All created things belong to Him.
What did the earth look like immediately after He created it? It was formless and empty or desolate: it did not have exact dimensions like it has nowadays. It did not have an exact diameter and circumference or continents with definite coastal lines. It was formless, somewhat like a lump of clay. And it was empty like an empty jar; the waters were empty of fish and there were no trees nor animals. The whole earth was enveloped in water, totally covered with water – deep water. Furthermore, it was enveloped in darkness – If, at that stage, you would sit in a boat floating on the waters, you would not be able to see anything above or around you, not even your hand held right in front of your eyes for it was dark, pitch dark. You would be totally immobilised for light was unknown on earth and there was nothing by which it could be created. Earth was hidden in eternal night. If you would approach it from outer space, you would crash right into it, for it was invisible.
There was only one living Being on the earth and that Being was God. His Spirit hovered over the waters, In that pitch, dark night. He was not scared of the deep waters nor of the dark night as we would have been, on the contrary, He was moving across the waters for He planned to do something there. He wanted to change that dark and empty place into a sunlit orderly world where you and I could be born.
C. THE FIRST DAY OF CREATION: GOD CREATED LIGHT (Please read Gen 1:3-5)
“God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness He called “night”. There was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (WEB)
When we need light, we have to look for a lamp or a globe, but God created His own source of light to light up the earth. It could not have been the sun, moon and stars, for He only created these on the fourth day. (We will see all through Scripture that the Lord only tells us what He did and sometimes why He did it, but seldom how He did it. We sometimes manage to figure out the “How” by scientific research.) He only spoke these few words “Let there be light” and suddenly the whole globe was flooded with light. What tremendous power there is in God’s words. God created light from nothing, but by simply speaking it into being. This is very important to note for we will later see what power a Christian can exercise with his tongue. Light was something new which the Lord added to the world; a special and very necessary blessing.
But He did not want continuous light, He wanted periods of darkness followed by periods of light to afford his creation the opportunity to rest and revive its strength. So He divided light from darkness and called the light ”Day” and the darkness He called “Night”. Night fell and when the light dawned again, the first day had passed, was completed.
Looking at the earth from a distance on the second day, must have been an amazing sight. Everything was bathed in light which caused the waters to sparkle. Perhaps there were storms, fierce winds and frightening waves. But there was no land at all for water covered all the earth.
D. SECOND DAY OF CREATION: THE AIR AND A LAYER OF CLOUD ABOVE IT (Please read Gen 1:6-8)
“God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky’. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.” (WEB).
God created the atmosphere; He laid it on top of the waters that still covered the land. He also created an upper layer of water, probably in the form of vapour, like clouds that was lighter than air and was consequently lifted into the upper regions of the atmosphere. It would seem that, at the earlier stages of the earth, there was no direct sunlight onto the planet which allowed for a milder climate. Later on, when this upper layer of water was removed, the atmosphere served as a medium through which the clouds could be blown speedily over vast distances to provide rain deep inland.
The atmosphere contained gases like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen that was necessary to sustain the plant and animal life which the Lord still was to create. The atmosphere also afforded a special three-dimensional habitat in which all of God’s flying creatures could soar high above the earth, covering vast distances in a short time. Again, night fell and passed and morning came.
E. THIRD DAY OF CREATION: LAND, SEA AND PLANTS (Please read Gen 1:9-10)
“God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land ‘earth’, and the gathering together of the waters He called ‘seas’. God saw that it was good.” (WEB).
Not all living things which the Lord was going to create, would be able to live within water, therefore He caused portions of the land to rise from beneath the waters to above the water’s level causing the waters that covered them to drain away, forming areas of dry land surrounded by sea. Today we have huge continents of dry land like Africa, North-America, South-America, Australia, Britain, Europe etc. Up to this point God was working with lifeless matter.
The earth was now ready to support vegetation. He had prepared it just as we prepare a piece of land before we plant our maize, wheat, cabbages or whatever. We read verses 11 to 13:
“God said, “Let the earth yield grass, herbs yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with their seeds in it, on the earth”; and it was so. The earth yielded grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with their seeds in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.” (WEB).
Now, for the first time, there was life on earth. Plant life is the first and lowest form of life. It germinates, grows and multiplies solely per code (a law, a program, an instruction) that God put into it. Generally speaking, it has no senses like sight, hearing, smelling or tasting, although it is sensitive to changes in temperature. It is unable to think, speak or move around. Some of it was intended as fodder for animals.
There were two kinds of plants: grain bearing plants (like wheat, maize, etc.) and fruit bearing plants (trees like peaches, mangoes, etc.). What a tremendous variety of trees we have, bearing delicious fruit of all tastes. a list of all the plants God created, is not given: just think of the multitudes of flower species. God was preparing a most beautiful habitat for His living creatures to enjoy.
The appearance of the earth was transformed. No longer was it a deathly brown, it had suddenly become a beautiful green garden covered with multi-coloured flowers. No longer was it empty; it was now beginning to fill up with beautiful things like when a rich man is buying furniture for his new house because he is planning to marry a beautiful wife and wants her to enjoy it. The Lord looked upon it and saw that it was good. Then night fell and the third day went to sleep.
Oh, how great is God. Have we ever met anyone that can create something from nothing? Do we know someone that has nothing in his hand and speaks a word and suddenly there is a small tree in his palm and he gives it to you and you take it home and plant it and it grows and becomes a peach tree? No there is none but God that can create, praise his Name.
F. FOURTH DAY OF CREATION: SUN, MOON AND STARS (Please read Gen 1:14-19)
“God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs to mark seasons, days, and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light to the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” (WEB).
It seems as if God replaced or supplemented the light He created on the first day, by the sun moon and stars which He now created.
Their primary function was to provide light on earth. The larger and brighter sun was to provide light during daytime and the smaller moon (which, as we know today, only reflects the light of the sun) and the stars, were to provide subdued light at nighttime so that nocturnal animals could still move around but that activity would tune down, affording God’s creatures a period of rest and of recuperating their strength. For human beings, it would also provide an opportunity to fellowship more closely with their Creator (Gen 3:8).
These heavenly bodies were created in such a way as to provide fixed timing of seasons, days and years according to which the earth would function and by which mankind (and even to some extent the animal world) could order their lives. God clearly planned a certain lifestyle for man that was to be regulated by time frames which He pre-determined for our security, wellbeing and happiness.
(The universe consists of an immeasurable number of galaxies (groups of stars) and each galaxy in turn comprises millions of stars and planets. Our solar system (sun system) with its sun and 9 planets, is only a small speck in the galaxy we call the “Milky Way.” The diameter of our sun is 864 938km and contains 99.8% of the mass of our solar system and 1.3 million of our earths could fit into it.)
Again God looked at the work of His hands, saw that it was well done and liked what He saw. When you reach the end of a hard day’s work, do not just rush home where there is more work awaiting you, but stand still for a moment, consider what you have done and if you are satisfied that you did it well, praise the Lord for enabling you to do so and you will sleep well and return joyfully the next morning for another day’s fruitful service.
G. FITH DAY OF CREATION: FISH AND BIRDS (Please read Gen 1:20-23)
“God said, ‘Let the waters abound with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the sky.’ God created the large sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.” (WEB).
On this, the fifth day of creation, God filled the empty heavens with birds and the empty seas with fish and other oceanic creatures – (He stocked His well-prepared farm with animals of all kinds). Just as in the case of the vegetation, He created an abundance so as to fill the heavens and the seas which indicates that He did not have in mind that one specie was to develop from another. He did not create only one kind of bird nor one kind of fish, leaving them to develop into other kinds according to their own insight and inclination. How could He have expected from a sparrow to have the vision to develop into an ostrich or a whale to tune down to and grow arms like an octopus. It was our all wise, creative God that formed every species of fish and bird different from the others and gave to each its own way of existing. And what a multitude of different species He created. He never runs out of ideas.
He then blessed them, that is, He spoke His favour over them, empowered and commanded them to multiply and fill their domains to fulfil His goal for them.
H. SIXTH DAY OF CREATION: ANIMALS (Please read Gen 1:24,25)
“God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.” (WEB).
On the sixth day, God created all the livestock and wild animals. Here we also see that God created, in one single day, every imaginable animal that we today observe. Animals were of a higher level of life than plants. Their physical characteristics included that they could move, hear, taste, smell, feel, create sounds, generate smells; they could thus perceive what happened around them and react noticeably to it. They also have basic thought processes such as a buffalo finding the safest place to cross a river or as a chimpanzee to picking up a stick and thrusting it through the bars of its cage to gather in a banana that is out of his reach. It is however doubtful whether they can plan ahead. When the ant gathers food in the summer for the winter months, he does it by instinct and not by planning. Animals communicate by body language and by creating sounds, but do not have language in the true sense of the word. They do display emotions similar to man, especially rage and fear, but also longing and the desire for interaction with others of its kind and some for interaction with man. Because the animal has no spiritual component as part of its composition, it can, as far as we know, not communicate with God Who is Spirit.
Also, note that the food God placed on the animals’ menu, included all the multitudes of green plants to satisfy every possible taste and preference (1:30). When we contemplate the animal kingdom, we are amazed by the Almighty’s ingenuity: think about the old tortoise that crawls laboriously along the earth, while the eagle is carried effortlessly high above him by invisible air currents; every one has its place and purpose on God’s beautiful earth.
(Today the numbers of vertebrate animals, though they comprise only 6% of all animals, are as follows: Reptiles: 7,984; Amphibians (animals equally at home on land and in water) 5,400; Birds: 9,000 – 10,000; Mammals: 4,475 – 5000; Fish: 23,500).
God made them all and was pleased with them.
I. CLOSING REMARKS
The basic creation was now completed and it was good as God repeatedly found it to be.
Long debates are carried on in Christian circles about the length of the creation days: were they days of 24 hours as we know them today, or possibly periods of thousands of centuries each, as some scientists allege? The question may eventually be resolved but the most important point is this: that everything, but everything, was created by God and without him nothing that exists came about. To Him alone be all the honour and glory for all eternity.